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CURRENT COLUMN

Visual Artists as Entrepreneurs and Marketers
September 2013
Visual Artists as Entrepreneurs and Marketers

Audain Art Museum
June 2013
Siting an Art Museum in a Forest

Gordon Smith Gallery
November 2012
Boosting the Profile of Artists for Kids

Equinox
September 2012
From glacial meltwater to contemporary art

Morris & Helen Belkin Gallery
June 2012
Professional curators of contemporary art were once as scarce as hen's teeth

Equinox Gallery
April 2012
Gallery owners have their eye on East Vancouver

Equinox Gallery
February 2012
Gallery owners have their eye on East Vancouver

Jacana Gallery
November 2011
Nothing is certain but death and taxes

Satellite Gallery
September 2011
Hope springs eternal


June 2011
The Hotel Waldorf
reimagined


April 2011
Education for the eye,
soul and mind


February 2011
Fine art inkjet prints
are here to stay


November 2010
SAAG endows the old
with new possibilities

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Gallery Views

Zhang Peili, A Gust of Wind

Zhang Peili, A Gust of Wind (2008), still from video installation on view at Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery, Vancouver BC, to Aug 19 [Yellow Signal: New Media in China, a multi-venue survey of cutting-edge Chinese media art conceived by curator Shengtian Zheng] Courtesy of Boers-Li Gallery, Beijing / Photo: Owen Sopotiuk

Professional Curators of Contemporary Art
Were Once as Scarce as Hen's Teeth

By ANN ROSENBERG
annrosenberg@shaw.ca

The academic approach to the world of curating has certainly been transformed since earning my MA in Fine Arts from the University of Toronto in 1963. In those days, Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Art History were granted by very few Canadian institutions. The University of Toronto’s Department of Art and Archaeology offered a program that began with a study of ancient Egypt and by the third year, 20th-century art movements had been barely touched upon. Nonetheless, the handful of graduates were guaranteed employment.

Upon graduation, my first position was as a slide librarian with the University of British Columbia’s Fine Arts Department which was followed in 1965 by my second job as Assistant Curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery where mounting art exhibitions for children was part of the job description. By 1970 I was teaching a survey of art history at Capilano College and was passionately involved with the visual media aspect of The Capilano Review publication. This latter avocation led to employment as curator at Surrey Art Gallery from where I removed myself in 1989 upon the realization that I lacked appropriate training for a position involving much more than the visual presentation of artwork.

Although curatorial training was emerging as an area of speciality, it was not until 1992 that London’s Royal Collage of Art established Britain’s first (and Europe’s second) curatorial program at the MA level. In the same decade, such degrees were also granted on the West Coast at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

It seems that Canada has been at the forefront of on-the-job and/or academic education for curators in the field of contemporary art. Non-profit, artist-run-centres (which originated in Quebec) were first established in Vancouver in 1973 with the founding of the Western Front. These centres gave artists opportunities to gain real experience in every aspect of selecting and presenting curated, as opposed to juried, exhibitions.

Today, most wanna-be curators still study art history in universities, art schools and even online, but courses in this field are no longer “traditional”. Instead, explorations of art context, art theory and art language dominate the smorgasbords of tasty liberal arts curricula as with the BA and MA programs at Seattle’s University of Washington. In combining academic and practical coursework, degrees are conferred by that university but teaching takes place at Seattle’s College of Art.

Vancouver has an international reputation as being home to several highly accomplished and visionary curators. I think back to the late Ted Lindberg, who established a short-lived curatorial program at Emily Carr College of Art and Design in 1986 after becoming director of the Charles H. Scott Gallery. Notable curators today, like Cate Rimmer (currently curator at the Charles H. Scott Gallery) and Daina Augaitis (who is Associate Director and Chief Curator of the Vancouver Art Gallery), are graduates of Lindberg’s program. Scott Watson, Curator/Director of UBC’s Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, is a brilliant example of a contemporary curator who has mounted many ground-breaking exhibitions and who also helped shape UBC’s Critical Curatorial Studies Program. If only such challenging programs in contemporary curatorship had been available all those years ago.

Ann Rosenberg is a freelance curator, critic

The Studios at Milepost 5

The Studios, one of two edifices built as live/work buildings at Milepost 5 overlooking Portland, Oregon

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